I always fancied a Kawasaki Zephyr when they first came out in the early 1990s, which in turn began when I first saw a Z1, but couldn't afford either of them at the time when the bug had bitten…
Strangely, it was the 550 I thought was the best looking due to its close-pitch cylinder finning as opposed to the 750; the1100 had not been released at that point, so that was my only choice. Fast forward to 2013 and I saw by chance – an 1100 Zephyr for sale on eBay, which piqued my interest again. Also by now I was able to afford one.
So I started looking for an1100, which was now my preferred model.
Yes, it was a case of ‘ biggest is best’, and on balance it’s the better-looking model. Despite scouring every motorcycle media known to man I couldn’t find anything good enough – and not many were out there.
By the end of 2013 I got fed up with the search and forgot all about it, but come 2015 I came across the Japanese 'Sanctuary' website and that did it... Wow! Those bikes look awesome and I knew I had to build a bike along those lines. So the search began again in earnest, until I found a bike very poorly advertised on Gumtree. It just said 'Kawasaki Zephyr 1100' and a land-line number.
As bad as the advert was, this turned up a gem. It was a 1997 registered B1 with wire-spoked wheels, the vendor had owned it from new and it'd only done a genuine 5500 miles! What's more, the price was favourable, too!
The race was on to get the bike – but I had no van, no one to help and no trailer. I sorted a trailer locally, only to find it was overpriced and a deathtrap, as he’d built it himself! I’m stuck, so I pay the dosh and fix it up as best I can ready for the journey to Essex the next day.
A steady drive on one of the hottest days of the year and I’m met with a cooling breeze behind the garage doors when the seller reveals the bike. This maroon Zephyr obviously had been garaged all its life: just some engine lacquer flaking and some heel scuff marks on the frame to fault it, but that was all. I wanted the bike, but rode it anyways to make sure – it rode just as a 5500-mile old bike should. Even with this ‘win’ I even got a small drop in price!
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Pip Higham Tuner, engineer, rider
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